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Continuing to Grow in Humility

Humility is not a one time event.The way into the Kingdom of God is through humility. The way through the Kingdom of God is with humility as well.  It’s important that we clearly understand that humility isn’t something that just brings us into the Kingdom and then once we’re there we don’t need it anymore. Humility is something that has to be worked out throughout our Kingdom life. We never outgrow humility; we just continue to grow more deeply in it.

Luke 18:9–14 shows us a stark contrast between a person who is arrogant and full of pride and a person who has definitely grown in humility. It’s a very familiar passage that contrasts a Pharisee and a Tax Collector as they pray.

Pharisee Observations:

·      His spiritual life focused on promoting himself. Instead of praying to God, he prayed with himself. He said, “I” five times.

·      He forgot who he was in relation to God by comparing himself with other sinful men. You can always find someone more sinful than you, but never more holy than God. We are called to keep our eyes on Jesus and let humility have its way in our lives.

·      The Result: He received nothing from God. His prayer was unheard. He was unjustified. He exalted self, so God humbled him.

Tax Collector Observations

·      His life wasn’t focused upon promoting self—he was humbling self. He would not look up to heaven. He was beating his breast and begging for mercy. He never said, “I.” He didn’t compare himself to other men.

·      He knew who he was in relation to God and he only saw his need for mercy.

·      The Result: He went home justified and exalted by a God who responded to his humility. This was his entryway into the Kingdom and his life through the Kingdom.

4th Century scholar and Bishop, Basil the Great wrote, “The stern Pharisee, who in his overweening pride not only boasted of himself but also discredited the tax collector in the presence of God, made his justice void by being guilty of pride. Instead of the Pharisee, the tax collector went down justified, because he had given glory to God, the holy One. He did not dare to lift his eyes but sought only to plead for mercy. . . Be on your guard, therefore, and bear in mind this example of severe loss sustained through arrogance. He [the Pharisee] was judged inferior to a humble man. Humility can often save a sinner who has committed many terrible transgressions.”[1]

We need to learn from these two men that the way into and through the Kingdom is by humility. We can’t end up like the Pharisee comparing ourselves to other people and focusing only our selves. We can’t forget our own need for mercy. Instead, we need to ask God to help us grow in humility.

Andrew Murray wrote, “May God teach us that our thoughts and words and feelings concerning our fellow men are his test of our humility towards Him, and that our humility before Him is the only power that can enable us to be always humble with our fellow men. Our humility must be the life of Christ, the Lamb of God within us.”[2]

[1] Thomas Oden, General Editor, Arthur A. Just Editor, An Ancient Commentary on Scripture: Luke, (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 2003), 280

[2] Andrew Murray, Humility & Absolute Surrender,  (Peabody, MA, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2005), 34

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